Columns

Planned Parenthood Leader: Supreme Court Can't be Eight for 'Rest of History'

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's president, addresses an audience during an event Jan. 10, 2016, in Hooksett, N.H. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said the Republican-controlled Senate should hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the election because the court cannot “operate” with eight justices for the “rest of history.”

Richards also questioned the motive behind the delay.

“I think it’s actually a question of whether we want government to work, and as we all know the feeling of the American people about the total breakdown of Congress getting anything done is pretty profound. So if I were in the United States Senate I would at least be doing everything I could to make sure I was executing on my responsibility to fill this ninth seat on the court,” said Richards, who spoke on the conference call in her role as head of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“I don’t understand what the purpose of a delay is. We’re not going to operate with eight members of the court for the rest of history, and so why don’t they take up a nominee now? And if they take up that nominee and they don’t agree with him and they decide to vote him down, so be it. But to sit and not do your job is unacceptable and that’s what the American people are clearly saying,” she added.

According to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund website, the organization “works to protect access to healthcare for women across the country — taking action to ensure that women have access to care, no matter what.” The group said the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is under attack in many states. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund warned Congress is considering “a ban on all abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has argued that there is no “shall language” in the Constitution that requires the Senate to hold hearings for Merrick Garland’s nomination.

Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, compared the situation to bills the House sends over to the Senate that are often not considered.

“When the House of Representatives passes legislation, as it routinely does, there is no affirmative ‘shall’ obligation on the part of the Senate for us to pass the legislation nor is there any affirmative ‘shall’ obligation for us to even consider that legislation,” he said.

Maria Teresa Kumar, founding executive director of Voto Latino, disagreed with Lee’s position on the matter and encouraged Republicans to take a page out of former President Ronald Reagan’s playbook. Kumar specified that she was speaking on behalf of the Voto Latino Action Fund.

“Ronald Reagan was in the middle of his last term as president and he was able to go ahead and pick Anthony Kennedy as his Supreme Court nominee and he was accepted, so if we want to set precedent we should actually look at what history showed us that at the end of the day there was a time when the Republicans put the American people’s values and ideas first before politics,” she said.